Patek Philippe. A historically important and possibly unique 18K gold "World Time" wristwatch
Patek Philippe. A historically important and possibly unique 18K gold "World Time" wristwatch


Patek Philippe. A historically important and possibly unique 18K gold "World Time" wristwatch
Signed Patek Philippe & Cie., Genève, Calatrava model, ref. 96 HU, movement no. 176'226, case no. 294'923, movement manufactured in 1913 and encased in 1937
Cal. 12''' World Time nickel-finished lever movement, gold wheels, bimetallic compensation balance, wolf's tooth winding, silvered matte dial, applied gold baton and Roman numerals, stylised gold hands, revolving silvered ring calibrated for the Arabic 24 hours, outer ring with black enamel names of 28 world locations, circular case, flat bezel, snap on back, case and movement signed
30.5 mm. diam.
1938 until 1969: whereabouts unknown
January 30, 1969, Parke-Bernet Galleries Inc, New York, "Watches & Objets de Vertu", lot 24: acquired by Theodore Beyer for US$ 275 on behalf of Chronometrie Beyer, Zich, Switzerland
March 30, 1973: acquired directly from the above by a European Lady for CHF2,600
29 January 2007: acquired directly from the above by a European Collector
December 2009: acquired directly from the above by the current owner

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Lot Essay

With Patek Philippe Extract from the Archives confirming production of the movement of the present watch, a calibre 12''' World Time with gold wheels, in 1913. It was encased in 1937 and sold with silvered dial, raised indexes and Arabic hour markers in gold on 14 September 1938. Furthermore delivered with associated 18K gold woven belt-shaped bracelet. Furthermore delivered with photocopies of Patek Philippe Geneva Attestation dated 6 June 1988 confirming that the present Patek Philippe 12''' "Heure Universelle" was sold on 14 September 1938.

Patek Philippe's family of world-time wristwatches is enjoying a mythical status amongst collectors, not only thanks to their ingenious mechanism but also given their beautiful design. Another reason why these watches are so highly appreciated by aficionados is unquestionably their exclusivity, since, despite the clever mechanism, the demand was never very strong at the time of their making.

Thanks to literature and over a quarter-century of wristwatch auctions, all different references of Patek Philippe's world-timers known to have been made have been professionally researched, documented and beautifully photographed in colour.

The present reference 96 HU however is possibly the most legendary of them all, since until today, there has been only one single image depicting this watch: an archival picture published in Patek Philippe Wristwatches by Martin Huber & Alan Banbery, first edition, p. 188.

It is now for the first time that this model is shown and described in detail as the one and only time it has been offered at public before was over 40 years ago at a period when a catalogue entry was a mere 4-lines - furthermore omitting an illustration. This is however very well understandable when putting it into a commercial context (with the final bid being US$ 275.00), but more importantly is certainly that this world-timer was probably one of the very first wristwatches ever offered at auction.

In historical terms, this watch must be considered a milestone in the development of Cottier's mechanical world-time mechanism as it can clearly be added to the top position of the family tree of Patek Philippe's world-time wristwatches.

The last generation, the famous reference 2523 with two crowns, is obviously blessed with the most mature and developed mechanism since it allows the wearer to change the location by turning a crown, hence protecting the city-ring from being inadvertently moved. The inner revolving ring is divided, by shades of white and grey, into diurnal and nocturnal hours. Its predecessors, references 1415 and 1416, already had the two-tone 24 hour ring, but the position had to be set manually. The circular model made prior to the latter two, notably reference 542, did already have a rotating bezel with the engraved names of cities around the world, but not yet the inner revolving ring divided into the day and night hours.

Patek Philippe's two earliest wristwatches with world time function are the rectangular reference 515 and the Calatrava-shaped reference 96, the present specimen, characterized by the all-white revolving inner rings and the rings featuring the different time zones which cannot be repositioned by their wearer. Whereas on reference 515 it is categorically impossible to rotate the rings by definition of its case shape, the present reference 96 can be easily reset by a watchmaker.
Another most interesting fact is that the archival images of both the present reference 96 and reference 515 reveal the lack of Patek Philippe's signature on the dials, a highly unusual omission. One can only speculate about the reason but it can be assumed that both watches were rather built as prototypes than as watches intended for public sale.

The following compilation lists all known vintage world time wristwatches by Patek Philippe:

Ref. 96 HU "Calatrava", the present watch: cased in yellow gold around 1934, finished in 1937 and sold in 1938, the names of 28 cities on a ring around the dial. It is believed to be a unique example.
Ref. 515 HU: rectangular-shaped wristwatch in pink gold case, made in 1937, featuring the names of 28 world cities on the dial. To date, three examples of this reference are known to exist.
Ref. 542 HU: introduced around 1937, the names of approximately 30 cities on the revolving bezel. Four examples have appeared in public to date.
Ref. 1416 HU: the immediate predecessor of the better known ref. 1415 HU with the difference of the straight "bean"-shaped lugs. Three examples have appeared in public to date.
Ref. 1415 HU: launched in 1939, case with teardrop lugs; the names of 39 to 41 world cities on the revolving bezel. Cased in yellow gold and pink gold fitted with several dial versions including plain silvered and cloisonné enamel, one example in platinum with silvered dial known to date.
Ref. 130: an 18K yellow gold mnemonic World Time chronograph wristwatch, with square push buttons, register and tachometer, made in 1939 upon special request and believed to be a unique example. The World Time dial with the names of 24 cities, the time difference based on Berlin which is placed at noon. However it is not fitted with a World Time mechanism.
Ref. 1415-1: made in 1940 upon special request for Dr. P. Schmidt. A unique World Time chronograph wristwatch in yellow gold, with square push buttons and the names of 33 cities. Today at the Patek Philippe Museum on permanent exhibit.
Ref. 2523 HU and ref. 2523-1 HU: two crown World Time wristwatches made between circa 1953 and 1965. Available in pink and yellow gold, with engine-turned or enamel dials, the names of around 40 cities on the revolving bezel. To date, one example is known in white gold, which is now on permanent exhibit at the Patek Philippe Museum.

Introduced in 1932, reference 96 is unquestionably Patek Philippe's most legendary design. Incorporating elements of Bauhaus, late Art Deco and modernism, it is the perfect 1930s effigy, its timeless case proportions as modern today as they were at the time of its creation. Amongst connoisseurs, reference 96 is better known as Calatrava, a name which stands for avant-garde philosophy thanks to its subtle, elegant lines - clearly Patek Philippe's signature piece.

Whereas reference 96 is best known for its simplicity and the absence of any further functions, the present "Heure Universelle Calatrava" is a sensational "one-off" and milestone in the development of World Time watches. Without a doubt, it is one of the most exclusive and historically significant collector's pieces offered at auction in recent years. The combination of Patek Philippe's landmark reference 96 and Louis Cottier's revolutionary world time design render the present "Calatrava" an important witness of the technical development of early 20th century watchmaking and constitute a peak in the evolution of technical wristwatches - an area in which Patek Philippe has been foremost for generations.

Louis Cottier
With the beginning of continuously increasing mobility in the late 19th century, watchmakers were challenged to invent new mechanisms to reflect the fact that the globe is divided into 24 time zones, each representing 15 degrees of longitude starting from the Greenwich Meridian. To make use of this feature, the bezel is first rotated so that a location in the same time zone as the clock is at 12 o'clock. When the local time is set on the main dial, the outer day/night ring can be used to tell the time at any of the locations engraved on the bezel. This ingenious mechanism has been invented and patented by the celebrated watchmaker Louis Cottier from Geneva who has worked closely with Patek Philippe for over 30 years.

Born in 1894 in Carouge, Geneva, Cottier had inherited the talents of his father Emmanuel, a renowned maker of watches and automata. Emmanuel had invented a World Time system in 1885 which he presented to the Société des Arts and which, some forty years later, served as inspiration to his son.

Louis studied watchmaking at Geneva's horological school and distinguished himself as a highly talented student, who, at a very young age already, received several prizes, including two from Patek Philippe. Following his studies, he worked as a watchmaker for Jaeger's Geneva branch before opening his own business. Louis Cartier's career started in the back room of his wife's book and stationary shop at Carouge's 45 rue Vautier where, during 13 years, he manufactured fine desk clocks, pocket watches, wristwatches and prototypes. In 1931 he introduced his highly practical and elegant invention of the "heures universelles", featuring a central local time with hour and minute hands, linked to a rotating 24 hour ring, and bordered by either an independently revolving time zone bezel or outer dial ring (both manually adjusted). By aligning the local time zone with the 12 o'clock point of the local time dial, the watch would display the correct time in both hours and minutes, night and day, for every time zone in the world simultaneously, all on a single dial and while allowing easy accurate reading of local time.

Following the success of this ingenious system, Cottier specialized in complicated world time watches and invented models of remarkably pure design for the most prestigious Geneva brands, notably Patek Philippe, Rolex, Vacheron Constantin and Agassiz.

In 1950 he invented the World Time system with two crowns, regarded by many one of the most practical innovations of 20th century watchmaking. In addition to a greater security and precision in the choice and maintenance of the city of reference, it offered greater protection against shocks and wear on the bezel bearing the city names. The possibility of printing the city names rather than incising them, thanks to the protective glass, resulted in greater legibility.

Patek Philippe entrusted him with the development and fabrication of the greatest number of complicated watches, resulting in the invention and production the celebrated "dual time" wristwatch in 1954 featuring a single movement. This solved the problem of synchronizing the minute hand, a problem which existed in twin movement watches by other manufacturers. This Two Time Zone movement with two or three hands, developed in collaboration with Patek Philippe's specialists, is amongst his most successful inventions. Finished in 1957, the prototype was patented by the firm in 1959 (no. 340191).

Louis Cottier was one of the organizers of the famous annual exhibition "Montres & Bijoux", which each year presented new creations. Even though he was considered a living legend and despite his incredible reputation he had earned in the world of horology, the ever active and brilliant Louis Cottier remained a modest and humble man.

He would certainly have been surprised to know that, after his death in 1966, his workshop was given to Geneva's Musée d'Horlogerie et d'Emaillerie where it can still be seen today. A similar tribute was made after his death when his fellow citizens of Carouge, as homage to the man and his contributions, named a square after him.

Still today, Louis Cottier's timeless design is the standard used for mechanical world time watches.

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